FERC Denies Dominion Request to Extend Tree-Cutting

On March 28, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today issued a denial of the request by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC to extend for two months the right to fell trees for the ACP. Read the FERC denial here.

In March 2017, based on consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Dominion had agreed to the tree-felling restrictions as part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s environmental review process, saying they planned to “comply with these time-of-year restrictions by clearing trees outside of the migratory bird nesting season, and outside of the Indiana bat summer season in occupied habitat.”  Tree felling in Virginia would be restricted from March 15 through August 30 for the migratory bird nesting season.  For Indiana bats, if a tree-felling site is within five miles of a known hibernacula, restrictions apply for April 1-Nov. 15; if a site is not within five miles of a known hibernacula, April 15-Sept. 15.

But then on March 15, 2018, Dominion told FERC that despite their best efforts, they would “be unable to complete the scheduled tree felling … before the existing time-of-year restrictions go into effect,” and they therefore sought “approval to continue tree felling until May 15, 2018, except in U.S. Forest Service lands and in areas where Indiana bats are present or where tree felling would be within five miles of known Indiana bat hibernacula, within a quarter-mile of known Northern long-eared bat hibernacula, or within 150 feet of occupied Northern long-eared bat maternity roosts.”

As an article in Highland County’s The Recorder noted, “Dominion’s request for the extension had generated a tidal wave of protests asking FERC to deny it because the intent was to avoid winged species migration patterns, something an extension would make meaningless.”

FERC denied that request, effectively delaying further preparation for pipeline construction for several months in Virginia.

David Sligh, a former DEQ engineer, now conservation director for Wild Virginia, commented, “Even FERC could not swallow the company’s weak and transparent claims that they’d provide the same level of protection while still cutting far into the period when protective measures are most important.”

Greg Buppert, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said, “Those restrictions were put in place for an important purpose, which was to protect migratory birds and bats.  And we think FERC made the right decision and held Dominion to its promise to implement those restrictions for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”